Need More Ground Breaking Innovators

For India to become a force to reckon with in AI globally, it needs ground-breaking innovators in large numbers  

As India aims to become a major player in the highly promising AI arena globally, it would be in the fitness of things that the country aspires to produce its own versions of trailblazing innovators like Sam Altman who can come up with advanced artificial intelligence technologies that can transform the lives of people worldwide in ways not thought of yet.

Otherwise, as a nation, India may always be playing catch-up in the AI domain where the goalposts get shifted almost every passing day. And that would be unfortunate considering that India, the world’s most populous nation, also has one of the highest numbers of scientific and technical personnel globally. 

Altman-led OpenAI is where it is today because of the huge impact that it has already made on the artificial intelligence space in such a short span. And that is exactly the sort of influence that our local AI innovators should aim at exerting on the world of artificial intelligence.

Efforts must be made to incentivize India's brightest minds to come up with breakthrough AI technologies that can totally change the rules of the game. Our brilliant people deciding to play safe by limiting themselves to coming up with tweaked, more economical versions of technological applications already introduced elsewhere would neither move the needle on the innovations front nor provide any significant momentum to signature national Missions like ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’, etc. 

For the incentivization process, it may be worth exploring the mechanism being employed by the UK in the form of the £1 million Manchester Prize [1] “for pioneering AI innovations tackling some of society’s biggest problems” in line with that country’s objective of “placing the UK at the forefront of the AI revolution, supporting the best and brightest to develop the technologies of tomorrow”. 

For the first two years, the Manchester Prize would focus on solutions to challenges surrounding energy, environment, and infrastructure. “This could include using AI technology to support the transition to electric vehicles by optimising charging methods, reduce household energy consumption by using AI to identify targeted interventions like adding insulation or help lower costs for consumers by automating energy-intensive processes in manufacturing.” 

To put the size of the Manchester Prize in context, it is relevant to mention at this point that the “AI Gamechangers Award 2023” given out by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) as part of the recently concluded Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) 2023 Summit had set the highest cash prize at Rs 10 lakh for each of the four award categories [2]. 

The newly formed National Research Foundation (NRF), besides key Central ministries like Electronics and Information Technology, Science and Technology, Education, and Finance, could step in to provide financial assistance to identified AI projects that rank highest on the innovation parameter. Progressive domestic corporate groups, moreover, could support such innovations, as Microsoft did in the case of OpenAI right from the start.  

At the end of the day, a country intending to make that giant leap from a developing nation to a developed one cannot and should not be satisfied with being one of the biggest markets for sophisticated artificial intelligence technologies. India must look to assert its presence in AI (a segment currently dominated by the US and China) and to do that home-grown audacious innovators with the ability to dream big and turn those dreams into reality is what it needs to have in large numbers. 

Reference (s) 

  • Prize opens for AI energy, environment, and infrastructure innovations. (2023, December 7).GOV.UK. 
  • AI Gamechangers Award 2023. (n.d.). 

About the Author 

Sumali Moitra is a communications consultant and columnist on current affairs. An Advisor to the Gurgaon-based R M Consulting, he is a former journalist of The Times of India and has also headed the communications and advocacy function at the National Skill Development Corporation ( NSDC) in the past. 

Add a comment & Rating

View Comments